Discontinuing General Municipal Law Section 207-c benefits
Dacey v Dutchess County, 121 AD2d 536
An individual is receiving benefits pursuant to Section 207-a or Section 207-c of the General Municipal Law and is absent on disability leave. While on disability leave and while still receiving benefits, the individual served with disciplinary charges alleging off-duty misconduct that occurred while he or she was on such leave. This was the fact pattern underlying a question raised by a reader. The question: What happens to the Section 207-c benefits if the individual is found guilty following a disciplinary hearing and the penalty imposed is termination?
The Appellate Division's decision in the Dacey case indicates that Section 207-a and Section 207-c benefits cease upon the termination of the employee.
Dacey, a Dutchess County corrections officer, was injured in the line of duty and was granted disability benefits pursuant to Section 207-c. While on disability leave she was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law. Found guilty of the charges, she was terminated. The County discontinued her Section 207-c benefits when she was dismissed. Claiming that she could not be deprived of her disability benefits solely on the basis of her termination following disciplinary action, Dacey sued.
The Appellate Division said that Section 207-c of the General Municipal Law must be read together with Section 75 of the Civil Service Law. Its conclusion: Dacey was entitled to receive her Section 207-c benefits only until she was terminated following her being found guilty of misconduct in the disciplinary action.
May the employer discontinue the payment of Section 207-a or Section 207-c whenever the employee is lawfully removed from the payroll rather than solely upon his or her “termination of employment” such as the 30-day suspension without pay authorized by Civil Service Law Section 75 or pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement?
Noting that prior to a final determination in the disciplinary action, Section 207-c benefits could not be suspended without a prior evidentiary hearing, the Appellate Division advised that such benefits had to be continued until a “final determination ... which would justify her removal from the payroll” was made. However, this does not suggest that the employee subject to disciplinary action must be continued in Section 207-a or 207-c status pending a final determination in the administrative disciplinary procedure if there is some lawful basis to otherwise discontinue such payments.
It would seem that the courts would not hold the payment of Section 207-a and Section 207-c benefits absolute and agree that they may be discontinued for the duration of any Section 75 or contract disciplinary action involving a lawful “suspension without pay” such as the 30-day period of suspension pursuant to Section 75.3 pending a determination of disciplinary charges; when the individual would otherwise be removed from the payroll such as approval of the accused individual's request to adjourn a scheduled hearing date; or as a result of the imposition of a disciplinary penalty of a suspension without pay for a specified period.